Over the course of the last decade, Patrick Forster has been waxed lyrical by the stars of North East football. Having worked at Mops in his home town of Newcastle, before upping sticks to ply his trade with Saks in Dubai, Forster returned to Newcastle last year and opened his very own barber boutique situated in the heart of the city.
Unlike other barbers in Newcastle, the charm of PFBS is clear to all that walk through the door. From the vintage golden cash register, to the drop down lights from Hoults Yard, every inch of this barbers is designed by Forster. The Twitter famous Stanley the Stag casts a watchful eye over proceedings from the back wall, waiting for each and every customer to have their photograph taken with him. On the night The Tynesider drops in for a chat, the Newcastle – Anzi Europa League clash is beamed throughout the shop, chilled retro beers stubbies on stand-by. Labelled the ‘Man Cave’ by Forster, his shop is the culmination of all the ideas and inspiration he has picked up when cutting hair across the world. Imagine your fantasy lad’s pad, den, with a barber dropped in for good measure. And you don’t have to look far to see just how popular it’s proving.
Boasting over 2,200 followers on Twitter, Patrick’s brainchild has quickly become the most talked about barbers in town. “When I opened I said we would never pay for any advertising in the first year and it’s been word of mouth that has been so strong for us,” explains Forster. “We got our Twitter campaign going and it was great. Keeping it fun was the big thing for me, along with sticking the silly signs in the window.” The combined power of good old fashioned word of mouth and interactivity on the social media site as seen Patrick attract customers far and wide to the Man Cave. “We’ve had clients in from Australia, London, Greece, who, if they were in town to watch the match or visit relatives, would have never heard about the shop. But through Twitter it’s went mental,” states Forster.
“T-shirt companies from London and LA want their shirts for sale here, and I’m thinking how on earth have you heard about us? Surprise, it’s through Twitter,” he adds. Patrick’s dislike of the word barbershop, saw him put his own unique spin the phrase and create the first ‘Barber and Shop’ as he showcases local clothes shop products in the barbers available to buy on the spot. With a little help from a few tweets here and there, it’s undoubtedly been a smart move to make.
“Guys wouldn’t walk into a pub and say: “You’re hair is really lovely”, they just don’t do that! So when people are tweeting photos of their new hair, or saying things like it was great to sit and have a beer or sit next to a footballer when he’s getting his haircut, it has really worked for us.”
Forster’s popularity shows no signs of stopping, with one eager customer booking an appointment three months in advance, ensuring he doesn’t miss out.
A quick scan on the shop’s Twitter photos reads as a Newcastle United team sheet; boasting the likes of Davide Santon, Fabricio Colocinni, Jonas Gutierrez and a certain Mr Yohan Cabaye. So, who’s next on Forster’s fantasy team hit list? “I need to get Pardew in. I’d have a great 5-a-side team, so I need to get the gaffer to complete it!
Until Forster tackles the mane of the Silver Fox, he’ll have to contend with the barrage of untamed locks lined up outside his shop door. “It’s easy for someone to come in and say they want their hair like a footballer. Their haircuts are advertised in front of 52,000 fans every fortnight,” says Forster. With an endorsement that money can’t buy, the Newcastle fan from Low Fell has seen his walking advertisements attract the masses to his shop, with requests for ‘The Cabaye’ made every now and again.
“It’s great for the kids, they all want a footballers haircut. I was the same, but then again Peter Beardsley haircuts weren’t all the rage. For the kids it’s also the fact they’re getting their hair cut by the same bloke who does their favourite players, which is kind of cool for them I suppose,” Forster explains.
Being the barber of the North East’s premium football talent brings its fair share of personal perks, as Forster lists Colocinni’s boots at the top of his freebies list.
Taking the leap from unisex salon to barbershop has given him a new perspective on just what men are after, and he’s making sure that he’s ticking all the right boxes. “Working in salons for so long I didn’t realise that everything is built for women, from the smaller chairs making you feel like you’re trapped to the big windows surrounded by mirrors, where people can see you. Not the best if you’re a guy getting your hair straightened and you’re sitting in the middle of Northumberland Street with your mates are walking past to go to the match,” explains Forster.
Sitting on the corner of the stylish High Bridge street, it’s clear spending five minutes in the company of Patrick that there’s no other place he’d rather be. “High Bridge has been getting busier and busier every year, it’s always been a cool place. The nicest thing about this street I find is that people help each other, all the different businesses. Local, small business working together, from record shops, clothes shops to barbers,” Forster informs us.
A trendy location lying off of the fashionably renowned Grey Street, check. Footballer clientele, check. An Xbox and beers for those who wait, check. It’s no surprise that Patrick Forster Barber and Shop has people talking. And there was no surprise in store for Patrick once he opened his door. “Guys here want to look good when they go out. They want to look smart on a Friday or Saturday night. People in Newcastle go out a hell of a lot. I think Newcastle was after something like this, for guys who are menly men. When they were spending a hundred pound on a t-shirt for going out and six quid for a haircut that they weren’t happy with, I think they just needed that little push, and once they got that push, people came in,” said Forster.
Still on the learning curve of stepping out on his own, Forster has big plans for the shop and is clearly coping well with the pressure of running his very own dream barbershop. From having his own loyalty card system to branching out into Gateshead, Forster’s passion and ambition for his business shows no sign of stopping. And with the feedback currently flooding its way back down High Bridge who can blame him. It doesn’t matter if you’re the Premier League’s most talked about prospect or on your lunch break from the worst office day imaginable, everyone is made to feel like a king from the moment there coat is hung up.
Patrick’s hospitality and charm ensure that everyone who walks through the door, not only leaves with a satisfied finished product but with a barber for life.